In preparation for re-evaluating my hearing deficit several inches of paperwork arrived Saturday by mail. In an effort to conserve paper, both sides of the pages were used so that I might have twice as much to read through before preparing and writing my responses.
The VA wants to be told what particular incident is linked to my hearing degradation. That’s not an easy thing to answer. The more deeply I delve into it, the more incidents spring into memory.
War is a noisy business and the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps took a second place to no one during the VietNam War. Looking backward, the potential single incidents are numerous.
Basic Training, BCT, shrill whistles at 0500, screaming Drill Sergeants bellowing into recruits’ ears at a distance of centimeters. Factor in two weeks of “train fire,” DI’s had ear protection, of sorts. The troops didn’t. Long days filled with the noise of 7.62 NATO rounds were of some concern, as was the single day spent throwing grenades. (ignore the soon to be disciplined sergeant who spent much of that day terrorizing the recruits by walking around with a grenade in his hand and the safety pin for that small bomb in his pocket – he was a VietNam veteran and moderately unstable according to the other DI’s)
Don’t forget the nighttime infiltration crawl through a sand pit about 100 meters in length with apron and concertina barbed wire overhead and all around. That was made damaging to hearing by detonation pits filled with artillery simulators and by the continual stuttering of M-60 machine guns locked into mounts that kept the rounds coming downrange, snapping overhead, at about 3 feet above the ground.
There was the 21-hour flight from here to there. 200 or so troops in the back end of a C-141, ear protection for the aircrew, none for the troops.
There was the idiot standing next to me when we were driven out to the Quon Loi perimeter to battle sight our M-16s. He opened fire without permission, the muzzle of his rifle about a foot from my ear. The warning about the danger of standing too close to the muzzle of an M-16 was certainly justified. My ears still haven’t quit ringing. Call it tinnitus if you will, it is a lifelong distraction.
Add up the detonations of thousands of small arms rounds, hundreds of mortar bombs and 122 mm rockets close enough to rattle ones teeth. Stir in the screaming of jet engines, the thumping, popping rotor blades of helicopters, 105 mm and 8 Inch outgoing artillery rounds, sapper’s satchel charges, claymores, pop flares trip flares grenades, and fu gas. It was a noisy time.
Other than the first M-16 event, I can’t pin any single event to any quantity of hearing degradation. My hearing was good enough to be a musician and then it gradually wasn’t. Now it isn’t.
Three copies. No corrections springs to mind because of the paperwork packet I received. The Army wanted 3 – 6 copies of everything. There were multiple page forms that contained 3 pages and two carbons so that one pass through a typewriter could churn out the desired 3 copies. The first page’s legibility depended upon the machine’s ribbon. The second, upon the strength of the typist’s hands. The third copy required imagination and a serious will to get along with the clerk- typists who were chained to desks pushing out multiple copies of every document that helped the armed forces move men, women, supplies, and paperwork around the world. The insistence upon no errors could, and did, turn a five-minute form into a three-hour herculean labor.
Oh, yeah! Don’t sign that with blue ink or we start all over again.